Father Edward McIlmail, LC
The crowds asked John
the Baptist, "What then should we do?" He said
to them in reply, "Whoever has two cloaks should
share with the person who has none. And whoever has
food should do likewise." Even tax collectors came to
be baptized and they said to him, "Teacher, what
should we do?" He answered them, "Stop collecting more
than what is prescribed." Soldiers also asked him, "And
what is it that we should do?" He told them,
"Do not practice extortion, do not falsely accuse anyone,
and be satisfied with your wages." Now the people
were filled with expectation, and all were asking in
their hearts whether John might be the Messiah. John answered
them all, saying, "I am baptizing you with water,
but one mightier than I is coming. I am
not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. He
will baptize you with the holy Spirit and fire.
His winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his
threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his
barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable
fire." Exhorting them in many other ways, he preached
good news to the people.
Introductory Prayer: As Christmas draws
near, I desire to learn more deeply your example
of humility by coming among us as an infant. I
pray that this season rekindles my sense of hope
in your providence.
Petition: Jesus, grant me the
grace to grow in the virtue I need to cultivate
1. Within Reach: Charity demands justice, at the very least.
According to the Compendium of the Catechism (no. 381),
justice consists in the firm and constant will to
give to others their due. In this passage Saint John
the Baptist points out two levels of justice toward
neighbor. In the first level, he tells the tax
collectors and soldiers to be content with the money that
comes their way rightfully. The second level goes further.
It demands that we share our surplus with those
in genuine need. That surplus could be all around
us: in our closet, our pantry, our checkbook. What could
I share with the poor? A saintly maxim says:
Live simply, so that others can simply live.
2. Open to
All: People of all sorts approach John the Baptist for
advice. He responds to them all. They hunger for
meaning. They want to repent. Those same people are
with us today. Maybe they are fallen-away Catholics, or
Evangelicals, or Jews, or Muslims, or even atheists. They too
seek meaning in their lives. All of them, whether
or not they realize it, seek Christ, who "fully
reveals man to man himself" (Gaudium et Spes, 22). Have
I been willing to share that "secret" with others?
Are there areas of my life where I shy
away from talking about religion? The office? The mall? The
dinner table? John the Baptist wouldn’t exclude anyone. Would
3. Groundwork: By calling for charity and justice John wants
to prepare the people for the arrival of the
Messiah. Without hearts open to others, they would not
be able to accept the robust message of Christ. Charity
prepares the heart for the seed of the Gospel.
If ever my relationship with Christ grows cold, I
should ask, “How is my charity? The key to finding
myself demands that I look first to serve God
Conversation with Christ: Lord, for you, charity
is the highest value. You even spoke about it
the night before your death. "I give you a new
commandment: Love one another as I have loved you,
so you also should love one another" (John 13:34).
Christmas should enkindle charity in my heart. Let me see
you in every person I meet today.
I will perform a special act of charity
today for someone at home, work or school.